Eric P. Wijnants and the problem of pseudo-scholarly writing without footnotes

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Back in April 2005 I wrote a blog entry titled “How Not to Write Occult History” about a website I came across the was full of information, but free of footnotes. As a historian, I commented that the site was useless, because without citations it was just a bunch of opinions that could not be verified. The whole thing had a suspicious feeling to it, which I summarized as:
The irony is immense. For someone who purports to unearth the hidden truth about the occult, he is behaving exactly like the occultists he exposes. Mountains of secret truth are revealed, and all must be taken on faith, faith that Eric P. Wijnants has properly understood and presented the information that he posts in semi-anonymity (none of the occult pages have his name on them). And faith it must be, because there is no way to verify any of it.
An interesting thing happened after that. First a woman contacted me to describe how Eric P. Wijnants had contacted her posing as a professor of comparative religion at the University of Vienna and it asked for a review copy of her unpublished work. This then somehow ended up on the Internet in its entirety, on Eric P. Wijnants’s web site and without any indication that she, and not he, had written it. She went on to explain how she had been started investigating and discovered that the University of Vienna had never heard of professor Wijnants. Another person contacted me from the Netherlands to say that she’d been married to Eric in the 1970s and the what I wrote about him seemed entirely consistent with his behavior back then. She claims she had raised their child alone. But the story gets more interesting. People started popping up to question my blog post in the comments. They sported impressive academic credentials, and attacked my methodology and conclusions. One of them, a year later, claimed that contrary to my assertions one particular article did indeed have footnotes. And upon checking again it was true, there were indeed footnotes on one article that hadn’t been there before. The curious thing was that I could find no record of the existence of these impressive academics. My best guess is that Eric P. Wijnants found my article and decided to defend himself, using pseudonyms. This is a little bit more than I had been expecting when I wrote the article. I was just calling attention to a problem I’ve found in a general way, pointing out how in principle pseudo-scholarly writing without footnotes is problematic on several levels. But I appear to have identified a particular problem more clearly than I realized. Eric P. Wijnants seems to be a pathological liar and repeat plagiarist, and doesn’t even have the integrity to defend himself using his own name.

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This page contains a single entry by Daniel Hindes published on October 21, 2007 9:34 PM.

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